Before the brexit, a statistic has proven that 84% of official documents in these institutions were originally written in english before being translated. That shows the hegemony english language has in all matters regarding politic, economy or civil society.
But since the official exit of United Kingdom, on January 1st 2020, some voices have been raised to propose to consider french as a new official language for diplomacy in European Union to put a stop to this british hegemony. But would it be realistic to go through such a big change in our policy?
French, the most spoken language among European Union Countries since brexit
Also, historically, french have already been a language of diplomacy by the 13th century, when french was the most widely spoken language in Europe. An ordinance passed in 1539 even officially claimed for french to be the official language of diplomacy through the continent. And it stayed like this for few century, especially during 17th and 18th century, a time when french was spoken in every royal court around Europe, even if english was still most spoken in the world, due to Great Britain having the biggest colonial empire.
The end of this french prominency truly started to end after WWII and the creation of United Nations Organisation and then North Atlantic Treaty Organisation where english was mostly used. As United States became a world leader in the second part of the 20th century, english became the language of official trades, and the second language learned at school.
But could french take back this influence in the old continent? Probably not… first of all because it would create a difference of language in the diplomacy inside, and in the foreign diplomacy with countries outside of europe. So changing language now would probably be out of question.
too complicated to change the work language of the institutions
For now, changing the official language of diplomacy so abruptly is out of question. It would be so difficult to translate all documents and maybe find new interpreters to start anew. But would it be possible to change bit by bit to get french more used in European Union institutions? Definitely not… English is still so widely used and most spoken among officials and especially young persons that it’s still the language that most have more proficiency.
In the majority of the countries, english is still the first language that students start to learn from a young age. Even if the importance of english will drop it’s importance as the first official language, the fact that people have more knowledge in english rather than french will still remain.
Also changing language just because United Kingdom left European Union wouldn’t make sense and it would be quite a stretch to change the system of using english just for these reasons.
And let’s be honest, as beautiful and rich french language may be, english is still much easier to learn… especially the grammar!
Marianne is a french volunteer in Praxis organisation, involved in the World French Language day campaign.